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Hutchison Disappointed in FCC's Broadband Reclassification

Commerce Committee ranking member Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Tex.) wants the FCC to identify which elements of the national broadband plan are at risk from the BitTorrent decision, and says she thinks Title II reclassification is not about that plan, but about buttressing expanded and codified network neutrality rules, which the FCC has proposed.

In a letter Thursday (May 20) to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, Hutchison said she was extremely disappointed that he had decided to reclassify broadband service under Title II common carrier regs.

She said the move would lead to "lengthy appeals" and regulatory uncertainty that could hurt broadband investment. She urged him to reconsider the move, but in the meantime wanted him to clear up "conflicting reports" about the impact of the BitTorrent decision. She cited a comment by FCC General Counsel Austin Schlick that the decision has "no effect at all on most of the plan," then a Genachowski statement that reclassification was necessary "so that the commission can implement important, common sense broadband policies."

The Title II reclassification is meant to clarify the FCC's broadband regulation authority after the D.C. federal appeals court called it into question by invalidating the FCC's enforcement action against Comcast for blocking/impeding BitTorrent file uploads.

She said there was a "significant discrepancy" between the two that needed resolving.

She wants a list of all the recommendations in the national broadband plan that Genachowski believes can't be implemented based on its existing authority, plus a justification for that conclusion for each.

Hutchison says she does not believe reclassification is necessary to implement the plan, and that reclassification is more about supporting the FCC's network neutrality rulemaking.

Hutchison also said Genachowski did not provide some of the information she asked for in an Oct. 13 letter, specifically the number of investigations or enforcement actions involving alleged violations of the FCC's Internet Policy Statement. One of the arguments by opponents of network neutrality regs is that it is a solution in search of a problem. She renewed her request for that information, saying it would better help her understand why he thought regulation of broadband was "necessary and appropriate."